Russia, Turkey announce ceasefire - for most - in Syria

Russia, Turkey announce ceasefire - for most - in Syria Source: AAP

SBS World News Radio: Syria's government and a wide range of rebel groups have agreed to a nationwide ceasefire, which is now in effect in the war-torn country.

For the third time this year, a nationwide ceasefire has been reached in Syria.

The ceasefire agreement, aimed at ending more than five years of war, was announced by Russian president Vladimir Putin and later confirmed by Turkish authorities.

Turkey foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says the two nations, which back opposing sides, will act as guarantors of the truce.

"Russia and Turkey are guarantors of the agreement being worked on in Ankara. Regarding the agreement that will be signed by the regime, there is nothing final on whether Russia will be the only guarantor to sign it or whether it will be signed by Iran as well. But it is agreed that Russia will be a guarantor."

Mr Cavusoglu says all foreign groups fighting in Syria will need to leave the country.

"Different fighter groups who came to Syria must leave the country. This was clearly underlined in the declaration issued by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Jeddah, as well as in other declarations. All foreign fighters need to leave the country. Those Shi'ite groups who were brought into Syria from different countries must leave the country, and Hezbollah must return to Lebanon."

Vladimir Putin says the opposition and government parties have agreed to start peace talks following the truce.

"The agreements that have been reached are, no doubt, very fragile, and they demand attention and follow-up in order to keep them and develop them. Nevertheless, it's a significant result of our work, the defence ministries, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and our partners in the region. Now we need to do everything for these agreements to work, so that negotiators would come to Astana and would begin to work on a real peace process. I call on the Syrian government, armed opposition and all countries involved to support these agreements."

At least 300,000 people are believed to have been killed in fighting that followed the public uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the opportunity presented by the ceasefire should not be wasted.

"We have an opportunity to stop the bloodshed in Syria with a political solution. We must not squander this chance. This is a historical chance. This window of opportunity should not be wasted."

The Syrian army says, while it will halt fighting, certain groups -- which include the self-proclaimed Islamic State and the Kurdish YPG militia -- will be excluded from the truce.

The head of the Syrian opposition group Ghad al-Suri, Ahmed Al Jarba, has welcomed the ceasefire.

But he says he is concerned by the absence of Arab countries and Syrian factions in the negotiations.

"There was no Arab presence, nor any Syrian presence, whether opposition or loyalist. We welcome the ceasefire, because this is something that will stop the Syrian bloodshed. We wish this agreement could have been reached before the crisis in Aleppo and the fall of Aleppo. This was supposed to take place before the crisis, and we could have saved a lot of bloodshed, death and displacement. There are tens of thousands of families in East Aleppo that were displaced. We wish the ceasefire was agreed during that time."

Civilians in the rebel-held Syrian town of Azaz have offered mixed reactions.

Resident Ahmed Nahel says he supports the ceasefire because it will give the opposition an opportunity to reorganise itself.

"We are with the ceasefire, so that the opposition can reorganise themselves after a difficult time, and we hope that this will benefit the opposition, to reorganise themselves and begin a new phase, God willing.''

But fellow resident Mohamad Kepa says a ceasefire goes against the entire objective of the Syrian revolution.

''I'm completely against it, 100 per cent, and the brigades that are united in the ceasefire will not be united in war, they will be divided. I'm against the ceasefire because our main aim was to get rid of Bashar al-Assad, and Bashar al-Assad will remain."

A spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army, Osama Abu Zaid, says he hopes the deal will ease conditions for civilians still in the country.

"Conditions faced by the Syrian people in rebel-held areas are nothing short of catastrophic. Citizens were being shelled and bombarded on a daily basis. People trapped in besieged areas were not able to receive any substantial relief and were faced with deteriorating conditions and starvation."



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